You know, one of the most heartbreaking things to me as a dad is the memory of what this country used to be like and the knowledge now that if you were born anywhere from 1998, 1995, really, to today, you have no memory at all of what this country was like before September 11th.
September 11th changed absolutely everything. The Clinton administration was the beginning of this, this nastiness that just went beyond where we started pitting against each other, if you were a liberal or a conservative.
If you voted for this guy, you were part of the problem. I don’t remember that when I was a kid. I posted something this weekend on Facebook about leadership. And honestly, it was something for me. It was something that I’ve been trying to study to be a better leader at my home and also at the office. It had nothing to do with politics. And, man, it just set everybody off.
The liberals and the conservatives were just screaming at each other. I wrote in the comment section: When did we become this? When did politics become absolutely everything? When did that happen to us?
It’s summer. Do you remember what summer was like when you were a kid? The last day of school? Do you remember the last week? All you did was just look outside. And there was just this really great feeling — that butterfly in your stomach, that excitement for what’s about to happen.
We might have butterflies in our stomach now, but it’s more of a “I think I’m going to vomit feeling” when you’re thinking about what might happen. Back then, it was just excitement. When that last bell rang, you said goodbye to your teacher and you knew you were graduating to another class, just down the hall and you were a bigger kid now. It was like being freed. Suddenly, you had no obligations. Nothing jamming up your days. Nothing to force you to bed early every night. The next three months seemed like a year or a decade.
I look back at my childhood, and it’s the summers that I really remember. It’s not the school days. At least in early childhood, it is the summer that marked you. And every summer was different and more exciting.
It’s different than it is now because we weren’t restricted as much. Our parents weren’t freaking out that somebody might invite us into the house, eat us and lock our remains in the freezer. It was simpler times. We didn’t worry about the cannibal down the street.
The whole town was fair game for us. We would get our friends together, and we would leave early in the morning. Mom would just say, “Be home for dinner.” And then after dinner, it would be, “Just get home before the street lights go out.” Didn’t happen until 10 o’clock sometimes where I lived, up in the north. Well, the street lights don’t go out anymore.
As I got up in the morning, it would be freezing cold in my room because up in the Pacific northwest, it can get down to 40 at night, 50 at night. It was just great. And you could smell the freshly mown glass. The sprinklers would be on, and it would just gently coax you out of bed. You would get dressed. You would have to finish your chores; maybe you had to mow the lawn in the morning first thing, and you would race out the door.
The day would usually be mine because on those days I didn’t have to work as a kid, we would just go out. Both my parents were working. And you would just go out, and the day was completely yours. You didn’t close the door. You just let go of the screen door with that giant spring at the top, just slap the front of the house.
I loved the smell of lilacs because they remind me of that time. And they’d just fill your nostrils with that great smell, until I would clog up from allergies, mainly from the lawn that I had just mowed.
If we could scrounge up a quarter, we’d walk or we’d take our bike to the A&W Root Beer place, and we would have a cold frosty root beer. If we were really fortunate and wealthy, we would somehow or another scrape up enough change to make a dollar and get a Mama Burger (the Papa Burger was far too expensive). Then that hot summer day turned into a warm summer night. Sometimes, we could convince our parents to let us sleep outside, which, of course, would lead to middle of the night ghost stories or talking about girls. “I don’t know, have you talked to her? I mean, does she like me? Do you know? What’s your friend say?” Even though you had absolutely no chance of ever talking to any of the girls, you talked about the girls a lot.
And perhaps some would play, you know, like ding-dong ditch or something. You know, I wouldn’t know what that was.
But it’s a different world now. There are 500 channels on TV, every movie in the world available on demand — on your TV, your computer, your phone. There’s texting at the dinner table. Our kids don’t even look at each other anymore, let alone go outside and play.
This summer, Raphe helped with a gate, stripping it down. Now we’re working on the fence, around the cows. I was so proud of him, that he wanted to work. Actually, didn’t want to work. He just wanted the money, but that’s a step in the right direction. At least he knows he has to work to earn the money.
I got a job when I was eight years old, probably earlier than that, but I know for sure by eight I was working. It was 1972, and I was working in my dad’s bakery. We didn’t have to work every day during the summer, just most days during the summer. I had to work in the afternoons, and I would go down in the late afternoon and clean the pots and pans, scrape the floor and clean everything up once dad stopped.
And then I would go home. I got a $1.60. I’ll never forget. It was a $1.60 an hour. And that was huge money. That was minimum wage. My sister would get paid more.
As we got older, my sisters also worked out in the front of the bakery. But as they got old enough, they could get a job someplace else if they wanted. As soon as my sister turned 18, she drove a big pea-viner. We lived in the Skagit Valley, and we had tulips and peas and all kinds of stuff. The pea viners would go out — they were these gigantic machines — and I remember thinking my sister was so cool because she could drive one of those. Then late in the day, we would go to my grandparents’ house — they had a raspberry farm — and pick berries.
Kids aren’t doing this now In 1986, 57 percent of Americans age 16 to 19 were employed — almost 60 percent. Whether they were working at the Dairy Queen or the A&W, 60 percent were employed. I stayed at over 50 percent until 2002. But, again, something in America changed after 9/11. By last July, only 36 percent were working.
Now, there’s a couple of reasons for this. One of the reasons is in 1986, only 12 percent of teenagers were going to a summer school. And, quite honestly, summer school was for dummies. When I was growing up, you went to summer school, “Wow, you had that many problems, huh?” Now, summer school numbers have risen to 42 percent. So almost half of the kids are going to summer school. A lot of these are because they’re going to college, and they want to get ahead. I think we need summer school because our schools have failed us so horribly.
I went and got a graphic novel for my son this weekend. I’ve been trying to get him to read some of the classics, and he just will not read the classics. They’re hard. I don’t remember them being hard. You know, you read Frankenstein or even Dracula, anything. Now, the action is so slow, it takes so long. It was all about the story then. Now it’s action, action, action or they get bored.
I tried to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to him this summer. He just wouldn’t sit for it. So I went to the Barnes & Noble, and I got the graphic novels. And they’re true to the story. Well, he read Dr. Jekyll. He read Frankenstein and Dracula on Saturday and said, “I really want to read them. Dad, Frankenstein isn’t anything like I thought.”
“I know, son. I’ve been telling you that.”
So now I think you have to go to summer school, but where do you get a job? The other reason why kids aren’t working anymore is because there are more people that are older that are working. I think this is for two reasons: They know their pensions aren’t coming true, so they have to work; also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to retire when I’m 65. Sixty-five used to be old. Sixty-five isn’t old. I don’t want to retire. What are you going to do? Shuffle around? Die? Go play golf?
I know there’s a lot of people going, “Yes, Glenn, I’m going to go play golf.” Play golf now. My father wanted to play golf. He waited his whole life: “You know, one day I’m going to retire. I’m going to play golf.” By the time he retired, he couldn’t play golf. His body was too destroyed. He retired. He couldn’t wait to retire — and then he went back to work. He was bored out of his mind.
The other reason kids aren’t working is because of the minimum wage. When the minimum wage goes up and there’s unemployment, people with experience who want to work will be hired. Businesses won’t hire kids they have to train on what work is all about. They generally go to the people who have experience and know what work is all about. They’ll hire them because they’re more dependable.
Summer has changed, perhaps forever. Our kids may never experienced the lazy, idyllic days of summer like we did, working part-time and playing until dark — and that makes my heart ache.
Editor’s Note: The following is based on an excerpt from The Glenn Beck Program on June 26, 2017.
Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program: